[vcf-midatlantic] bunch-o-replies

Jeffrey Jonas jeffrey.scott.jonas at gmail.com
Fri Jun 10 05:09:00 EDT 2016

I get the digest version so I'm replying to everything I just read:

From: VAXman at tmesis.org
> Also, the GUI -- guarantee user ignorance

That's a good one *ker-quote*


Neil Cherry:
> I really see no merit to teaching some programming lingo
> but I do see merit in developing a logical/programming mindset
> to get from point A (input) the point B (output).

I misread that as "from port A input to port B output".
But I'll make my point anyway:
even BASIC had PEEK and POKE for hardware specific twiddling.
Most Apple ][ folks had the Beagle Brothers posters and cheat-sheets
for hardware specific tweaks and configurations.
Now it's all an "app" or utility.
No understanding required.


Bill Sudbrink:

> We get job candidates with CS degrees from reputable universities
> who don't know what a register is

I'm still wrestling with how to explain "what is a register"
without using the word "register".
Saying it's "special memory" doesn't convey
how it's so different from RAM or ROM.


Dean Notarnicola

> ...  I knew plenty of Cobol programmers back in the day
> who knew practically zero about how or why the underlying systems worked.

My dad worked on mainframes since the 50s.
Cobol was his bread-and-butter but he also had to know
peripheral specifics to make them sing and dance.
He still remembers details of the Analex printer
required to make it work at full tilt
because printing labels was one of his assignments.
Things people proudly claim as "hacks" were just
common requirements of the job "back then".

My dad knew machine code and assemblers.
He has reference cards for Autocoder and other ancient tongues
because before source code debuggers,
all you got was a core dump and the error exception.
IBM mainframes gave an ABEND code,
register dump and a core dump.
The programmer manually figured out what instruction gave the error,
crawling around the data segment as required to figure the full context.
Huge tables were often covered in fanfold to trace all the pieces.


chrisjpf33 at gmail.com

> And that is why we have garbage software today!

Thus Java: write once, debug everywhere.

I've seen embedded crapware, such as a Dlink home router
that emitted the most horrendous HTML it was my displeasure to view.
Despite claiming "Linux compatible", some administrative menus were IE only,
as if the firmware was created by someone using M$ building blocks.


re: not learning what's under the hood

I'm kinda guilty-as-charged.
I had an assignment on IBM system 3
where I took a black-box lego-building-block approach
since time was limited.
I learned RPG, OCL (the system's primitive JCL)
and the system utilities.
Everything required for program development and machine administration,
but never got deeper into the machine architecture.
McGuire's ribbed me for that since it's a wonderful machine.
I don't think the client would've appreciated my frobbing the CE panel :-)

I made up for that by learning the Z80 and IBM 1130.



> I'd be interested in seeing how the percentage of college freshman
> choosing the EE major changes over time for the past few decades.

And what constitutes an EE major now vs. 'then'?
I'm not up to date on ABET accreditation
but degree requirements are a moving target.
I had just missed learning tubes and using a slide rule.
The motor/generator lab was abandoned only a few years earlier
because nobody taught it. The curriculum emphasized math,
solid state physics and silicon devices.

Interdisciplinary engineering is now not only tolerated but encouraged.
Simulation tools such as MATLAB are considered essential foundations.
Today's EE degree is quite different from that of only a few years ago.
As Christopher Blackmon already replied:
> The college I went to (NC State Univ)
> offers a CPE (Computer Engineering) degree that (at least was)
> a simple hybrid of CSC & EE

re: Storage is basically free now.

Not when you're using a system-on-chip such as the Arduino.
The popular AT-Tiny takes everything several steps smaller.


re: Tony Bogan
> 99% of the people never have and never will
> know how to fix a car, or even a bike.

I'm forced to agree, kinda.
A 3 speed bike was my primary vehicle for many years,
with daily use for a paper route.
I changed snapped cables, flats, snapped chains
but never had to dig into the shifter.

It's reminiscent of the Monty Python "Bicycle Repairman" skit
where a town of all superheroes have no such basic skills.

Just consider how many folks cannot even change a car tire,
depending entirely on roadside service.
When it's available quickly, okay, it's nice.
But there are times and places you're out of range.
And then what?

-- jeff jonas

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